In 2012 my theme was, “Give it away”.
Beginning last January I parted with hundreds of my personal items: CDs, books, clothing, electronics, craft items. I became obsessed with living minimally, not seeing the point in gathering a bunch of stuff that would eventually dissolve into dust anyway. The link above and here speaks of how I didn’t even want anything for Christmas. And as I watched my friends get wonderfully useful presents from their spouses, parents, and siblings, I continued to feel comfortable in my decision to refrain from putting material items on my Christmas list.
One year after I parted with so many of my “treasures” from childhood/adolescence/young adulthood, I am not one bit sorry for getting rid of them. In fact, I’m going through another round of intense downsizing. I do have a small wishlist of things I want to purchase, but I wrote a “Get rid of…” list, too, feeling a tug in my heart that I have to exchange – I don’t want to acquire new things until I get rid of some of my current possessions.
I left a cookie sheet at a friend’s house the other day and told her to keep it or throw it out; I didn’t want it anymore. I’ve also given away a clock, some jewelry, some movies. This weekend I went through my CDs and got rid of dozens of cases, putting the CDs and their booklets in a large Case Logic case. I tore down books and TV DVD sets, ready to sell to a second-hand store. I did all of this very quickly, not only because I crave efficiency in all of my activities but because I didn’t want to change my mind. I ended up keeping three CD cases: Sugarland’s Deluxe Edition of Love on the Inside, Shania Twain’s first album (also my first CD), and Jennifer Knapp’s Kansas, my second favorite album from high school. (My first favorite is the first Dawson’s Creek soundtrack, secure in its case in my car).
I am now stuck in between wanting to seriously de-clutter my stuff-life and also build my history. I want to be able to show my future children my story. My life before them. Obviously, I love stories. I wrote a book. You don’t write a story unless you are a story lover. And to an extent, the stuff we gather tells the story of who we were, who we are, and who we want to be. I have not even considered getting rid of certain things: my journals, special cards and notes from friends and family members, special gifts. But some things I waver on. As I went through my CDs, I was all of a sudden singing with Missy or Danielle at the top of my lungs on a summer night, all our windows down and hearts completely abandoned to our Savior. I was on a road trip with Greg, making our way through KY and TN during the Christmas we were engaged. I was crying in my bedroom, trying to understand why some people had to be so mean. I was unwrapping presents at my first in-law Christmas; dancing around my room as I got ready for school; watching TV with my brother (soundtrack) or trading CDs in the halls of my high school with my group of friends. All while sitting cross-legged in my spare bedroom. (I’m sure it helped that I had the 1990s Pandora station on in the background).
So where is the balance? Which memory reminders do I hold on to, and which do I part with? I want so badly to hang onto certain memories; they are a collective of my life thus far. But I can only handle so much stuff before I turn into Monica from Friends (my husband’s affectionate nickname for me). I get stressed out and have a hard time writing/relaxing if I know there is something to de-clutter. (And I never de-clutter in a calm manner; it’s always in a frenzy. Hence the ‘Monica’).
Two things inspire me on the Get Rid of It side:
1. Lucille Ball stated in her autobiography that she couldn’t stand having things in storage if they could be used somewhere else. That’s exactly what I identified with last year when I started downsizing. I thought, Why am I keeping this stuff when someone else might benefit from it? I get the same feeling when I see new housing developments or American car dealerships: why are we just making more of these things when there are clearly enough unused ones to last everyone and their brother 5 times over.
2. A colleague of mine whom I respect and admire for her widely varied and adventure-filled life, easily parted with 10,000 pounds of her possessions. When she moved from Japan to America her organization asked where she wanted her stuff shipped. She chose to just leave it. 10,000 pounds of items collected from all over the world. Left on a shipping container. The only items she mentions missing are a chandelier from Prague and something from Japan.
These two women have incredible stories. And what they use(d) to tell their stories were photographs, journals, and all things 3D – their relationships, their work, their laugh lines. They didn’t use CDs, books, and cookie sheets.
But this is what inspires me on the Keep It All side: My mother-in-law has everything. Seriously. You will never want for anything at her house. And I love it. Absolutely love it. My co-workers think I am organized. I am the Tasmanian Devil compared to my MIL. But what she has been able to do is find the perfect balance: she does keep everything, but not in a hoarding way. As I said, it’s organized to a T. And she could walk away from it in a moment if she had to. If she was called to be a missionary in India, she’d be able to leave her pharmacy of a bathroom cabinet, her perfectly sorted Tupperware, her shelves of faith-inspiring books, and board that plane ready to see her spiritual family on the other side of the world.
So maybe I need to get my priorities straight and just not let the presence of stuff bother me so much? Or maybe my heart is truly asking me to downsize and I need to listen. To keep only the things that will tell my story, explain to my future children who their mother was Back in the Day. Like this: